Nicole Kidman's spooky new thriller The Others enjoyed remarkable staying power at the box office over the weekend, holding steady at No. 4 with more than $10 million. It's a bittersweet development for the 34-year-old actress, who, under different circumstances, would no doubt have been celebrating the film's sleeper success with her ex, Others's co-producer Tom Cruise. Instead, she's forced to maintain a brave public face while Cruise makes the rounds with his new squeeze, Pen&#233lope Cruz.

"It's a really tough, horrible time," Kidman confesses to TV Guide Online. "I'm trying to focus on my children. My primary concern is being there for them. I'm just trying to be the best mother I can." Incidentally, Isabella and Connor are currently vacationing with their dad — reportedly with Cruz in tow — in Telluride, Colo.

Kidman's maternal instincts came in handy while filming The Others, which finds her alter ego trying to fend off ghosts threatening her children. "It's about obsessive love — trying too hard to protect your kids," she explains. "I thought that was very interesting because you don't want to be too protective."

The toll-taking shoot — in which she spent weeks acting terrified of unseen spirits — gave Kidman the heebie jeebies in real life. "I didn't sleep well," she admits. "I would have nightmares sometimes and strange dreams. But I really like to be scared. I love to watch scary videos at home. I don't know why I'm drawn to that. I think it's that strange part of human nature where you're fascinated by things that don't necessarily make you feel good.

"What I like about The Others is that it's not a slasher movie that's full of gore," adds the Moulin Rouge songstress. "It sort of gets under your skin in an unsettling way, which I think is more interesting."

Despite her haunting, tour de force performance garnering raves from reviewers — not to mention Oscar buzz — Kidman can't help but view it with a critical eye. "I'm very tough on myself," she concedes, "and so I'm always thinking how I could have done things better."

Well, the busy thesp will have some time to hone her already-impeccable skills. After a grueling year — professionally and personally — Kidman plans to take some much-needed time off. And as far as her next project goes (there's talk of Moulin Rouge being adapted to the Broadway stage), she's just looking for a new challenge. "I know there are so many things still to be explored if I get the chance," she says. "I want to play great characters, and I'd love to do an epic love story."